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Czech brewer registers trademark in China, despite challenge from Anheuser-Busch

Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar NP said Wednesday it has had its trademark registered in China, despite a legal challenge from U.S. beer giant Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc.

China’s High People’s Court, in Beijing, on Oct. 18 rejected an Anheuser-Busch appeal against Budvar’s registering the "Budejovicky Budvar" trademark, and upheld a previous court decision allowing Budvar to use both a written and a graphic version of its trademark in China, the Czech company said.

Budvar said it was informed about the decision by its lawyers on Tuesday.

According to the Chinese court, Budvar’s trademark cannot be confused with Anheuser-Busch’s trademarks registered in China, Budvar said.

The ruling, which Budvar said was final, was the latest development in a centurylong global trademark dispute between the two breweries, and gives to the Czech company a green light to sell its lager on the fast growing Chinese market for the first time.

"The trademarks’ registration enables us to start exports of our beer to China without risks," Budvar spokesman Petr Samec said. "In the long term, we consider the Chinese market a good business opportunity."

Budvar exports its production to 50 countries worldwide.

"We are disappointed the Beijing High Court has decided that the trademark Budejovicky Budvar may be registered," said Stephen Burrows, president and chief executive officer of Anheuser-Busch International, in a message e-mailed to The Associated Press.

"This decision has no effect on Anheuser-Busch’s business in China or anywhere else. Our trademarks for Budweiser and Bud remain valid and unchallenged in China, and we will continue to sell our flagship brand there as we have for years," Burrows said.

He said Anheuser-Busch entered the Chinese market in 1995.

The legal dispute in China began in 1997, when Budvar first applied to register its trademark.

Anheuser-Busch - the largest brewer in the United States - has been battling with Budejovicky Budvar for the exclusive rights to the Budweiser name and others - such as Budvar - for over a century. Currently, they are involved in some 40 lawsuits worldwide.

Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in Ceske Budejovice - called Budweis by the German-speaking people that populated the area at the time. Beer has been brewed there since 1265.

The founders of Anheuser-Busch used the name Budweiser for their product because it was well-known in their German homeland. The St. Louis brewery got its start in 1852. It began producing Budweiser, America’s first national beer brand, in 1876.

Since 2001, Budvar has exported to the United States under the name Czechvar.

Among recent legal rulings, the Czechs won judgments in Portugal and Finland, while Anheuser-Busch has won in Swedish and Hungarian courts.

International Herald Tribune - 16 November 2006
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